The 40-year-old’s comeback dream of winning a gold medal 20 years after he seized that ultimate prize at the Barcelona Games fell just short as they claimed bronze.
Although it was far from a failure, Searle felt that another gold might be on as they pressed the German eight hard right from the start.
“My dream did not come completely true but it’s been fantastic the whole time, the years leading up to the Olympics,” he said.
“I thought it could be it… I had an amazing rush of adrenaline and I thought it really could come true.
“We raced hard from the start and the crowd was so loud but I could focus on rowing.”
The Brits disputed the lead for much of the first half of the race until Germany, finding another gear, began to pull clear.
Team GB went flat out to try to catch up but were themselves just caught for the silver medal in the last 50 metres by fast-finishing Canada.
Meanwhile, men’s pair George Nash and Will Satch booked their place in Friday’s final with a powerful victory in their semi-final at Dorney Lake today.
The duo finished in a time of 6:56.46, over two seconds faster than the French crew Germain Chardin and Dorian Mortelette, who took second.
New Zealand pair Eric Murray and Hamish Bond won the day’s other semi-final, and the world champions will be the British duo’s main rivals in the final.
“We knew it was going to be a long race, so we went out loose and kept strong through the middle,” said Nash.
“It felt quite together today and quite sharp. Maybe there are a few other things that we can do but it was a good row today,” he said.
“We don’t feel the pressure. We’re new to this and it is a big advantage to be able to attack anything in a loose and relaxed fashion,” added Satch.
“The audience here is incredible. We just want to do Britain proud.”
Earlier in the morning, Great Britain’s Helen Glover and Heather Stanning finally ended rowing’s search for a women’s gold medal when they stormed home first in the London 2012 Olympics pair final.
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BIOGRAPHY: Victor Moses
BIOGRAPHY: Luke Shaw